Kirk Kerkorian, casino tycoon, movie mogul, auto investor dies at 98

Tue Jun 16, 2015 6:35pm EDT
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By Will Dunham

(Reuters) - Kirk Kerkorian, the son of poor Armenian immigrants who used his gambler's instincts to become a multibillionaire Las Vegas casino tycoon, Hollywood mogul, airline owner and auto industry investor, died at age 98.

Kerkorian, who founded MGM Resorts International MGM.N and was its largest shareholder, died in Los Angeles on Monday night, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

He passed away after a brief illness, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Kerkorian had little formal education and dropped out of school at age 16. In his youth he was known as "Rifle Right Kerkorian" for his punching power as a small-time boxer. He would become an enduring American business heavyweight with a knack for placing winning bets in the corporate world.

Last month, Forbes magazine estimated Kerkorian's wealth at $4.2 billion after he took a hit on his investments in 2008, when the magazine said he was worth $16 billion.

Three different times - in 1969, 1973 and 1993 - Kerkorian built the world's biggest hotel in Las Vegas, the desert gambling capital where he first made his fortune in the 1950s and 1960s.

On his way to becoming a casino magnate, he befriended "Rat Pack" stars Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and other Las Vegas headliners.

Kerkorian owned some of the biggest and best-known Las Vegas hotels and casinos, at one time owning more than half the hotel rooms on the famous Las Vegas Strip. He also was instrumental in turning Las Vegas into a family destination rather than merely a naughty pleasure spot for adults.   Continued...

Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian heads into the courthouse to testify in the third
day of the DaimlerChrysler merger lawsuit in Wilmington, Delaware, in this file photo taken December 3, 2003.  REUTERS/Tim Shaffer/Files